Two Guys Talking Crap: The Podcast Begins!

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After weeks of planning and preparing, the first podcast of Two Guys Talking Crap has finally arrived!  Jason, a Mancunian from England, and myself, from South Carolina, talk a wide range of topics often with a mix of American and British perspectives.  The first episode looks at craft beer oddities, House of Cards, Star Trek: Discovery, and the power of the Handmaid’s Tale.  Click here to check it out:  https://soundcloud.com/user-39084080/tgtc-episode1

Also, if you have any suggestions for what you would like us to talk about, or want us to add something unique to the podcast, give us a shout at twoguystalkingcrap@gmail.com.

Enjoy!!

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Books! The Top Ten

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I love to read.  Always have.  Recently, I began to exchange books to read with my neighbor, Olivia.  In the most recent exchange, I encouraged her to read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  Not sure if she will get some of the 1980s references, but I have a feeling she will love the video game and virtual reality aspects of the novel.  That got me thinking, I know Ready Player One is one of the best books I have ever read, but would I put it in my top 5? Top 10? I started to come up with a top 10 list but then realized, what does “best” mean?  It’s harder than you think.  For example, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card was a truly amazing novel that spoke to me on so many levels…when I read it as a nerdy, shy 13 year-old like Ender was.  I felt I really identified with Ender.  However, if I were to read it today, it would be a much different experience.

Coming up with my top 3 was easy.  Top 5 was a little challenging.  But coming up with a top 10 and ranking them truly required a lot of thought.  (You should try it sometime and leave your top 10 in the comments section or on Facebook!  At least give me your top 5!)  After careful thought and consideration, here is my list.  Starting with #10:

10. The Diary of William Byrd of Westover: 1709-1712

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When I was a senior in college thinking about graduate school, I debated between focusing on World War II history and the history of every day life in Colonial America.  This book convinced me to go the Colonial America route.  Not intended for publication, Byrd’s diary gives the insight into the life of one of the wealthy elite in Colonial Virginia.  Filled with stories of happiness, tragedy, sarcasm, the eighteenth-century diet, and a passionate marriage, it is the gold standard for all historic diaries.

9. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

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Arthur C. Clarke has a writing style that really speaks to me.  The first half of his novels slowly buildup to something big, but you can never quite figure it out until it happens.  When the big reveal comes, it’s often earth (or universe) shattering and changes the entire course of the book.  Childhood’s End follows this pattern and goes away from the typical methods in which most novels depict the arrival of an advanced alien species to Earth.  It’s a book that leaves you thinking very differently about humanity.  The ending is both terrifying…and beautiful.

8. The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl

When I was in the tenth grade, my English teacher assigned my class to start reading Great Expectations.  It became clear early on that no one in the class had any interest in reading it, not even those who liked being the teacher’s pet.  She then switched gears and had us read The Pearl.  To this day, it is still one of the best books I have ever read.  It’s a classic tale of how greed, materialism and evil combine together to challenge those with the purest of intentions.  It will make you scared to ever want to win the lottery.

7. How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein

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If there is one thing I love more than sports or sci-fi, it’s maps.  Combine that love with my degree in history, and you have the perfect book.  This is my favorite non-fiction book of all time and one that I can easily read dozens of times in a year.  The book explores how the boundaries of each US state came into existence, and how many different factors contributed to them.  Some were defined by geography, some by politics, some by religion, some by the threat of vagabonds, and some by backroom dealings with Congress.  Of particular interest are the southeastern corner of Missouri, the northern border of Delaware, and the southwestern border of Massachusetts, among others.

6. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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If you grew up as a child in the 1980s, you’re going to love this book.  It tells the story of Wade Watts, a poor eighteen-year old kid who embarks on a journey through the OASIS to find the Easter Egg left by its creator.  Whoever finds the Easter Egg gets the keys to the kingdom, but the journey is filled with a world full of people also searching for it; including large corporations who want to control the OASIS.  The film adaptation is in the works and will be directed by Steven Spielberg.  I honestly have no idea how it will ever live up to the book, but we’ll see.

5. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, Jr.

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The ultimate story of how history repeats itself, and how humanity never learns.  The book starts 600 years after humanity is nearly obliterated by nuclear disaster.  Those that survived stamped out all forms of higher learning, even reading, forcing humanity to re-evolve. The novel is split into three time periods:  the 26th century, 3174, and 3781.   Humanity slowly rediscovers reading, technology, and science with religion playing a pivotal role in those developments.  But can humans be saved from themselves?  Is religion the the best path to turn for salvation?

4. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

PotterI fought reading these books for so long.  I saw how obsessed everyone was with them and decided that it was just going to be a fad.  However, when I went to see the third film in theaters with friends of mine who had read the books, I had a million questions:  “What, exactly, are Dementors?”  “What’s the Shrieking Shack?”  The answer to each of those questions: Read. The. Books.  And so I did.  Over the span of a month and a half I read books 1-5.  I read The Half Blood Prince in three days and The Deathly Hollows in a day and a half (I actually called in sick to work so I could spend the day reading it).  Fun, tragic, heartfelt, funny, witty, scary, mesmerizing…there are just too many great words to describe these books.

3. The Acacia Trilogy by David Anthony Durham

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What’s the price of freedom? Before I had ever heard of Game of Thrones, I read The Acacia Trilogy.  (In fact, when I watched the first season of GOT, I thought to myself wow, this is a LOT like the Acacia Trilogy.)  The novel centers around the royal family and the empire of Acacia.  Long-buried, dark secrets kept peace throughout the kingdom, but eventually things unravel.  The first novel is good as a stand alone work, but then you learn that the larger world has greater threats than ever imagined and the whole story shifts gears.  It’s a complex trilogy, but a surprisingly easy read. Durham does an excellent job of character development. The way Durham intimately connects the characters  with the reader makes the plot twist that much more emotional. It’s the second best fantasy novel I have ever read.  And yes, I like it better than anything from George R.R. Martin.

2. 1984 by George Orwell

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What?!  You’ve never read 1984??  You of ALL people?!”

That was someone told me seven years ago when I said that I never got around to reading it.  Once I did, I felt pretty ashamed that I had not read it sooner.  It’s so good, that there are times I consider it 1A in my list of favorite books.  1984 is the ultimate dystopian novel.  I often think that governments around the world, including our own, use parts of it as a blueprint for political strategy.  Don’t believe me?  Look up the definition of “thinkspeak.”  Getting the populace to bow to the government’s will and getting them to believe anything they tell them doesn’t necessarily require force of arms.  The more you read it, the more frightening it is because you know it can happen.  And when it does, you might not even realize it has.  Big Brother is out there, and he’s watching you.  Do you love Big Brother?

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

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When I read The Hobbit back in the late 1990s, I knew that I had to read this next.  I remember I got about 40 pages into the book and just lost interest.  It was slow and I didn’t care what Bilbo did for his 111th birthday.  Then, I heard they were making movies from the books and I decided to start them again.  When I read that last line “Well, I’m home,” I got a bit misty eyed.  I’ve never NOT wanted to finish a book more in my entire life.  I wished it could have gone on for another 1000 pages.  2000 pages, even!  It is the gold standard for all fantasy novels and has influenced countless authors over the past half decade. There are many imitators, but only one original.  It’s my favorite book.  It’s my favorite movie.

So what are your ten favorite books of all time?  Can you choose?

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Louisville Fans: Where is Your Line in the Sand?

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Dear fans of the University of Louisville athletics program,

Today has to be a hard day for you as the NCAA handed down stiff penalties to its basketball program in the wake of the prostitutes for recruits scandal.  As someone who lived in Louisville for four years, I came to understand the level of fan intensity you have for college basketball.  Granted, it took a while as I came from a school where college football is king.  I was there in 2013 when the Cardinals won the championship and pandemonium swept the city.  When Tom Jurich and the higher-ups at U of L decided to self-impose a postseason ban on the team after a wildly successful season last year, I knew it had to feel like a kick in the gut to you.  The penalties today had to feel like another kick, this time with steel-toed boots worn by Jean-Claude Van Damme.

While it’s a sad day for you, I do have to ask this:  Where is your line in the sand?  How much is enough?  Yes, you have a successful basketball program, a beautiful downtown arena, and a coach who knows the X’s and O’s.  But we all know the man is far from perfect and is not exactly the symbol of your great city that you know he should be.  Remember the scandal with Karen Sypher?  To me, it seemed the bigger story to those inside Jefferson County lines was that it was an extortion case on Sypher’s part.  And yes, Sypher was convicted of extortion and sentenced.  However, did you forget the details of that story?  How Pitino admitted to an extramarital affair with Sypher (having sex with her at Porcini’s while one of his aides relaxed in a booth nearby) and paid her money later for “health insurance?”   Now, Pitino has been suspended for the first five ACC games because his assistant paid prostitutes to woo recruits, and he is appealing that suspension. (Some inside analysts say that after hearing the testimony of former players and recruits, they are surprised the penalty isn’t far worse.)  Yes, Pitino did not order the prostitutes himself, but he hired the coach who did.  And with the small salary that coach was making, aren’t you even the least bit curious as to how he was able to afford all those prostitutes?

The penalties have been handed down and, instead of showing contrition for the actions of those he hired and using it as a learning lesson, Pitino and his bosses are fighting it.  They won’t deny that something happened, but they will scream how unfair it is to be punished like this.  I sincerely believe had they been more upfront about the whole thing earlier, the penalties would have been less severe.  Instead, there is a very real chance that games played with those recruits who received benefits from the prostitutes will be vacated.  That would include that beloved 2013 championship.  The NCAA is notorious for not showing enough teeth, unless there is some pretty damming evidence.  And in this case, there certainly seems to be.

Yet, so many of you still rush to support Pitino and stand by him, despite his past actions, despite the facts of what happened, and despite the testimony of former recruits. I ask you, why?  When do you say enough is enough?  How much goodwill does that one championship buy?  You can’t say it’s because he knows how to beat UK (a 2-8 record against them while coaching at U of L).  What has to happen for you to say “enough, you are a bad example to all that this city and University stand for?” While my alma mater, the University of South Carolina, does not have a championship in men’s basketball or football, I do know that if a coach had a 2-8 record against Clemson, he would be run out of Columbia in a hurry…and that’s without sex scandals!

You Louisville fans are an interesting bunch when it comes to undying loyalty. I dare say you take it to another level other college sports fans do not.  It’s not just with Pitino, but with coach Bobby Petrino as well.  If you want to recap all the ways Petrino has shat on his employers and fans, here’s a list. So far, he has remained at U of L. But do I need to remind you about the parable of the scorpion and the fox?  Despite the mountain of skullduggery that he brings everywhere he goes, he was welcomed back with open arms by the Cardinal faithful.  When I moved to Louisville in 2010, people there cursed his name up one side and down the other for the disaster he left the program in and how he stabbed everyone in the back.  Yet, the minute he went to coach for the Hilltoppers, U of L fans were counting the days down until he came back to coach the Cardinals.  Apparently, a high-powered offense more than makes up for being a snake in the grass who has repeatedly shown he gives less than two shits about everyone but himself.

Maybe it’s because Louisville is such a wonderful city that it makes the people who live there far more forgiving.  Maybe it’s the way the bourbon makes you turn a blind eye to the bad things and just concentrate on things that make you feel good.  Maybe Pitino just decided to take a different approach to the mantra of “Keep Louisville Weird.”  Who knows? All I know is that you defend Pitino and Petrino with every fiber of your being, even if you are some of the smartest people I have ever met; and that is something I need help understanding.  I do believe that either Pitino or Petrino could steal a car, race down Main Street in the opposite direction at 60 mph, do a line of blow off the dashboard while getting a hummer from an underage prostitute…all while carrying the Lord’s name in vain…and U of L fans would STILL defend them, as would U of L’s President and Athletic Director.

Fans of U of L, I do hope you have a line in the sand when it comes to this craziness.  I just hope you don’t have to cross the Ohio river with a scorpion on your back to get there.

Star Trek vs. Star Wars: A Collaborative Sci-Fi Throwdown!

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It’s a question that has been asked by countless fans across the sci-fi universe: Who would win in a Star Wars vs. Star Trek battle?  Star Wars has the Death Star, Darth Vader, The Force, The Rebellion, and Jar-Jar Binks.  Star Trek has the Borg, Kahn, The Federation, and Wesley Crusher.  Fans on each side think they have the side that would mop the floor with the other side.

For this post, I am collaborating with Star Wars aficionado and good friend, Chris Hayth.  Chris’s knowledge and love of all things Star Wars is very much like my knowledge and love of all things Trek.  He is someone that would very easily attend a Star Trek movie premiere dressed as Darth Vader, while I would very easily don my Captain Kirk tunic to watch a Star Wars production.

Recently, Chris and I took turns selecting four vessels, he choosing from the Star Wars universe and I choosing from the Star Trek universe, and matching them in four one-on-one battles.  We discuss the ships we choose, their capabilities, and why we feel they would win a battle.  Once the ships and battles are chosen we then ask you, the reader, to tell us what you think and who would win each battle.

So who do YOU think?  Which Star Wars/Star Trek vessel wins each battle?

On to the main event!!

Battle 1: 

Chris: I’m starting out with a big dog.  The Imperial Star Destroyer.  It boasts a complement of over 70 turbolasers of various sizes to fight against enemy ships, large and small.  It has a complement of over 70 fighter and bomber escorts to mop up any stragglers.  For land assaults, they carry AT-AT walkers, AT-ST walkers, and several thousand land assault troops.  It also has powerful tractor beams that can lock on to ships of various sizes, including consular vessels, and massive shielding that most weapons have difficulty draining. In short, its a carrier, a battleship, a transport ship.  Its a jack of all trades and it masters them all. Oh, and let’s not forget those ion cannons.  One shot from those renders any ship powerless.

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Imperial Star Destroyer

Nathan: To combat the Imperial Star Destroyer, I’m calling in the Borg Cube.  It’s three kilometers in length (making it three times larger than the Destroyer), and can bring the pain in a variety of ways.  It boasts shield draining missiles that can disable a ship’s shields in a matter of a few shots and even a polaron beam that can provide all the specs of an enemy ship in a matter of seconds.  Multiple powerful tractor beams can hold an enemy ship in place as a cutting beam slices it to pieces, or any one of a hundred high-yield gravimetric torpedoes can be fired for complete obliteration. However, it is more likely once a Borg Cube drains the shields, they would begin beaming over a majority of their 179,000 drones to begin assimilation. An enemy vessel such as the Star Destroyer might cause quite a bit of damage to the Cube at first, but once the Cube adapts to the weapons technology, enemy weapons are completely useless.  A Cube can even operate when 73% of it has been damaged.  Finally, the Borg have no central bridge or command area, so finding a clear target on the Cube is impossible (unless you are a reformed drone like Captain Picard).

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Borg Cube

Battle 2:

Nathan: For this battle, I am choosing the Reman Warbird, Scimitar, of the Romulan Star Empire.  The Scimitar is the perfect killing machine.  It has 52 pulse disruptor cannons, 27 photon torpedo launchers, primary AND secondary shields, and can travel up to Warp 9.7.  It has the maneuvering ability of a ship a fraction of its size.  Also, you can’t hit what you can’t see.  The cloaking device is, as Lt. Geordi LaForge of the Enterprise once called it, “perfect.”  You won’t know the Scimitar is there until you see torpedoes raining down on you.  And even then you won’t be able to see it, as it can also fire its weapons while cloaked.  The Scimitar is so bad-ass, that I would even pick it to go up against the Death Star.  Why?  Two words: Thalaron Generator. The ship itself turns into a massive thalaron particle weapon so powerful that, when fired, can kill every living thing on an entire planet. That combined with its cloaking device makes it nearly impossible for any ship of any size to go up against.

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Reman Warbird, Scimitar

Chris:  To counter the Scimitar, I’m not bringing in a big gun. The Scimitar is primed for a fight against a massive ship or even the Death Star.  No, I’m thinking outside the box here. I’m bringing in a solitary fighter. The TIE Advanced X1. The TIE Advanced X1 is equipped with advanced engines, life support, heavy armor and shielding, missiles, and an advanced hyperdrive. While the formidable TIE is a ominous weapon by itself, it probably isn’t a match for the Scimitar. That’s why I’m bringing in a special one.  I’m bringing in specifically the X1 that is flown by the dark Lord himself, Vader. Even if completely cloaked, Vader would use the force to find the Scimitar and exploit any weaknesses. Even if his ship couldn’t destroy it, which is likely, he could use his powers to somehow make it on board and if you don’t know what he can do to a ship’s crew, watch the last five minutes of Rogue One!

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Tie Advanced X-1

Battle 3:

Chris: The next ship I submit is Slave 1. Piloted by perhaps the most resourceful bounty hunter in the galaxy, Slave 1 is not only fast, it’s crazy fast and hard to target. It has an impressive array of twin turrets and ion blasters as well as defensive seismic charges. Slave 1 would not fare well against a ship in a punching match but it’s the ultimate ship to take out bigger ships with guerrilla tactics. In short, it’ll take anything out with the death by a thousand cuts in the hands of a proper patient pilot, and nobody is more patient than Boba Fett.

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Slave 1

Nathan:  Slave 1. I dig it.  Respect the Fett!  To counter Slave 1, I will send out an even smaller vessel, but one that will get the job done: Nomad.  Nomad was an Earth probe launched in 2002 and merged with an alien probe in deep space named Tan Ru.  From them on, Nomad labeled all organic life as imperfect and set out to eradicate entire worlds.  In a matter of only a few minutes, it wiped out four billion people and sterilized an entire star system.  Nomad’s energy beam has the strength of 90 photon torpedoes and its energy bolts could track a moving target up to maximum warp.  While its offensive weapons are impressive, its defensive capabilities give it the edge against any vessel.  Nomad has defensive screens that absorb energy from enemy weapons and can block all sensor signals.  Nomad is tiny, only about five feet tall and 18 inches in diameter, so trying to hit it without targeting capabilities is nearly impossible.  You can’t see it, you can’t detect it, you can’t shoot it, and you certainly can’t run from it.

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Nomad

Battle 4 (Final):

Nathan: For my final vessel, I am bringing in the only ship the Federation ever made whose sole purpose was to be a weapon of war, the U.S.S. Defiant. The Defiant can hit speeds up to warp 9.5 and its sleek design makes it incredibly maneuverable.  The weapons system includes four phaser cannons, three phaser emitters, four forward torpedo launchers,and two aft torpedo launchers (both of which can fire either photon or quantum torpedoes).  In short, it doesn’t matter where an enemy ship is flying around, the Defiant’s weapons can hit you from any angle.  The phaser cannons were so strong during initial testing, that it nearly shook the hull apart when they fired. Its shield generators cancel out energy dampening weapons, so ion cannons would be useless against it.  It also has a Romulan cloaking device that gives it more of an advantage in close combat.  Whether facing a vessel the size of a Borg Cube, or a one-man fighter, the Defiant has one mission in life: destroy.

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U.S.S. Defiant

Chris: While the Defiant is certainly a force to be reckoned with, it isn’t invulnerable. Ask the Breen! While technically a space station, it is more than capable of light speed travel and movement. It’s no small moon, it’s DS1 aka the Death Star! It’s boasts over 750 tractor beams, 15k turbolasers, 2500 laser cannons, 2500 ion cannons, and, of course, the super laser capable of destroying an entire planet.  Any necessity to use them will most likely never come to fruition as the Death Star has a compliment of over 7200 TIE Fighters. Even ceding the Defiant could destroy a thousand of them, there’s plenty to finish the job.   The Death Star would destroy the Defiant and anything else thrown at it and move onto Earth but recent press releases indicate the US has the best death star ever (jobs?) and the fact that the Death Star destroyed Alderaan is fake news. Time will tell.

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The Death Star

So there you have!  Star Wars vs. Star Trek in four one-on-one battles.  Who do you think wins each battle?  Leave a comment below or let us know on Facebook!

 

 

Goldfish and Morning Sports Radio: How Dying Attention Spans Shape Industries

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We live in an interesting time.  When the internet and e-mail became staples of our daily lives, little did we know that the need for instant information would change society as a whole.  Today, everything is about how fast you can get it.  Write a letter?  Who has time for that?  A company needs you to fax something to them instead of scan and e-mail?  Ha ha ha ha!!!  That’s so early 2000’s!!  You want to drive to stores all over town and find some pants to buy that are in your size?  Here, let me take you to the websites of those stores so you can shop online from the comfort of your own home while I watch Game of Thrones and finish eating my entire bag of nachos.

In the past few years, the need for instant information has decreased our attention span to the point where goldfish are now more attentive than the average human being.  (Goldfish=9 seconds.  Humans=8 seconds).  This has greatly shaped how we consume our media.  First, we saw the rapid decline of traditional newspapers.  Who needs to pick up the morning edition of the paper when you can read it as news happens online? If you can’t, you can set your phone up to send you alerts on the content you care about.  Next came television and cord-cutting.  As the internet and smartphones allowed us to find the content that mattered to us personally, a demand began to form to have better access to that content.  Why spend a fortune on a TV package where you only watch about 3% of the channels you have access to?  Along comes Sling, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix to fill a demand that traditional cable companies and networks were slow to address.  Fewer or even no commercials, as well as the ability to watch the content we cared about when and where we wanted, led to a major shift in the world of television.  Just ask ESPN.

Once the newspaper and television industries were irrevocably shaken up, our now un-goldfish-like attention span targeted sports. In the past few years, the major sports have all tinkered with ideas on how to speed up the “pace of play.” Major League Baseball has explored shortening the game the most.  This is probably a good thing, considering that games last well over three hours on average and continue to grow longer.  Commissioner Rob Manfred has looked at such measures as a pitch clock, enforcing the rule of batters remaining in the batter’s box, and limiting mound visitations.  Recently, the NFL shortened overtime from 15 to 10 minutes and Roger Goodell is exploring various other ways in which the pace of play can be sped up (time between whistles, eliminating kickoffs).  While it’s nice that both sports recognize that they need to speed up the game to fit our society’s decreasing attention span (which is especially true in the younger generation, a demographic the major sports are struggling to draw in), they refuse to acknowledge the root cause: Too damn many commercials…and it’s something neither the leagues or cable TV will change anytime soon, as both are heavily dependent on the other.  However, the plethora of commercial advertisements are a big reason why so many people have become cord cutters, a demographic that is rapidly increasing each year.

The mentality behind cord-cutting also changes what we listen to on the radio.  During my morning commute to work I often turn it to either the Dan Patrick show or Cooley and Kevin on ESPN 980, a local sports talk radio station out of Washington, DC.  Over the years, I have found that I do two things when it comes to listening to morning sports radio:  I flip the channel when a commercial is on and forget to go back to the radio show, and I try to time the minute I leave for work to when the first minute of the radio show begins.  Considering that my commute to work in the morning is only about 10-15 minutes, getting into the car at the right time is paramount.  Otherwise, I would have to spend the majority of my commute listening to advertisements telling me how I can consolidate my debt before the IRS comes to haul my broke butt off to debtors’ prison.

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Last week I conducted a listening test on three popular morning sports radio shows.  I listened to each for an hour at a time and calculated the following:  How many commercial breaks, how many minutes of commercials, and how many minutes of actual show content…all in an exact span of 60 minutes.  I must point out that radio personalities all read advertisements at some point during their show, so I subtracted that time from actual show content and added it to commercial time.  Here are the results:

The Dan Patrick Show (NBC. Broadcast nationwide.)

Number of commercial breaks per 60 minutes: 5

Total minutes of commercial time: 26

Total minutes of show content: 34

I love the personalities on the Dan Patrick show and the dynamics between them.  While they won’t ask questions that are too tough on their guests, they aren’t afraid to ask some that might push the envelope.  It’s funny, smart and engaging…and riddled with commercials.  What’s most annoying is the four-minute commercial break after the first segment that is followed by six minutes of content and then five more minutes of commercials.  It’s a 2-for-1 on commercials-to-content in the middle of the hour.  Plus, Dan Patrick often spends well over three minutes during his broadcast spewing his love of Ram trucks, Callaway golf clubs or Ripe Brand Bacon.

Mike and Mike in the Morning (ESPN. Broadcast nationwide.)

Number of commercial breaks per 60 minutes: 5

Total minutes of commercial time: 27

Total minutes of show content: 33

This show is, sadly, coming to its end soon thanks to massive shakeups at ESPN due to what I discussed earlier in this post.  This was a show I once listened to religiously years ago when my commute to and from college was an hour each way.  They’ve always had a great dynamic together, but over the last few years the show did two things that turned me away:  1.) They focused more on themselves instead of talking sports (I don’t care for a breakdown of high-end men’s shoes, or that they both have a soft spot for Justin Beiber), and 2.) they became synonymous with softball question interviews.  Also, the show became more and more dominated with commercials.  It got to a point where just about every segment was sponsored by someone, and they had to spend a large part of their show content reading a sponsor tagline.

Cooley and Kevin (ESPN, local to Washington, DC.)

Number of commercial breaks per 60 minutes: 5

Total minutes of commercial time: 17

Total minutes of show content: 43

Of the three morning shows, this one gives you more content.  Not only that, but they focus exclusively on sports.  You won’t find out what they had for dinner the night before, what they do when they hang out together, what style shirts they’re wearing or any of that.  It’s sports radio for people who like to listen to sports.  Occasionally they will discuss national sports, but the focus is more on DC sports.  Cooley can be a pompous d-bag from time to time, but it’s still better than hearing Mike and Mike sing together or Dan Patrick and the Danettes guffawing over Entourage or shitty Adam Sandler movies.

So if I hate commercials, what do I do during my morning commute?

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Two Guys Talking Crap Podcast:  A Brit (Jason) and an American (me) tackle whatever craziness the 21st century throws our way, including sports and science fiction.  And with no commercials!

I’m glad you asked.  Podcasts!  We live in an age where there’s something for everyone.  Explore the vast options of sports podcasts to choose from and find something that fits your style (I found Katie Nolan’s podcast to be pretty cool).  Few, if any, commercials, more specialized content, usually don’t have to follow stringent FCC guidelines, and leave you with something new to think about.

I (shamelessly) have a suggestion:  Two Guys Talking Crap.  It’s a podcast that my friend Jason and I have just started.  It’s sports, science-fiction, and just about anything that strikes our mind all done in a smart, witty and humorous discussion.  We’ll be recording our first podcast this week, so check back here to this blog for updates.  If you have comments or suggestions for content, hit us up at twoguystalkingcrap@gmail.com.

 

The Reality of Colin Kaepernick’s Unemployment

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It’s time we had a frank discussion about why Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed.

If you check the news lately, a lot of sports sites are going out of their minds about mediocre and garbage quarterbacks getting jobs across the league while Kaepernick remains unsigned.  The other day, the Arizona Cardinals signed Kap’s former teammate, the woeful Blaine Gabbert, to a deal as Carson Palmer’s backup.  The fact that someone like Gabbert can find work and Kaepernick can’t has gotten many pundits across the sports world up in arms and claiming he is being blackballed for his beliefs.  Those same critics point to someone like Joe Mixon who was drafted by the Bengals in the second round despite being caught on video landing a haymaker on a college girl three times smaller.  How, then, can someone like Kaepernick, who only knelt to protest the American flag, not find employment?  The answer is quite simple and it has less to do with politics than you’d think:  You have to be damn good at your job.

When Kaepernick’s kneeling first got the world’s attention, many of my liberal friends cheered and admired him for what he was doing.  Some even wanted to go out and get his jersey.  For those that know me, they can tell you that I am a pretty liberal person who believes strongly in the first amendment.  However, in this case I disagreed with those friends who were quick to celebrate him.  Many of those who admired his kneel downs were not big football fans and did not take into consideration other factors, like how bad a QB he was and how close he was to losing his job before he began to kneel.  I remember telling those liberal friends of mine “this isn’t what you think.” True, Kap did start to donate funds to local organizations that dealt with racial injustice, and he did meet with the local PD.  But to me it all seemed almost forced and only as a byproduct of his kneeling.  Why had he not done this before if this is how he felt?  What made him suddenly so inclined to stand up for racial oppression?  Where was he when Ferguson was going on?  If there was a time to take a stand, the Ferguson unrest would have been it.  Instead, we didn’t hear a peep.  I was seeing this for exactly what it was: an act centered more around selfishness.

To say that Kaepernick’s stance was polarizing is putting it mildly.  On one hand, you had people who threw their full support behind him.  Many football players across the league also knelt in solidarity during the national anthem.  Across the country, swaths of people celebrated his stance and commended him for risking endorsement deals to stand up and send a message.  On the flip side other people saw him as un-American, and said his antics spat in the face of veterans who fought and died for this country.  Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a hero of those on the left, called his actions (not intentions) “dumb and disrespectful.”  Kap’s stance certainly got the discussion going, which is exactly what he said he wanted, even if some of it was heated. I will grant him that.

This year, Kaepernick’s  former team, the 49ers, did a massive house cleaning and fired a ton of people including the head coach and general manager.  While Kap did throw 16 TDs to only 4 INTs, his QB Rating was an abysmal 55.2, he only averaged 186 passing yards a game, and was 1-10 as a starter.   The Niners front office felt that it was time to start over everywhere, including at QB, so they decided not to re-sign him.

Now we’re here in the middle of May, the NFL draft is behind us and free agents have mostly been signed across the league.  Not on any roster is Colin Kaepernick.  Why?  Is it possible that all the QBs on the rosters for the Browns, Texans, Jaguars and Jets are better than Kaepernick?  Is it solely because of the stance he took?  As I mentioned earlier, many sports blogs are saying it is the latter.  But this requires a more in-depth look.

The Stance, or Lack Thereof

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When Kaepernick was out on the free agent market and not getting any calls, suddenly, miraculously even, things had improved so much with racial injustice that Kap decided he would resume standing for the national anthem.  What luck!  It just so happened to coincide with the time he’s looking for a new job in the NFL!  I’m pretty sure that just about any organization which stands for equality and ending racial injustice in this country like the NAACP, National Urban League, and RainbowPUSH, will tell you that things are not better.  In fact, they’re probably a lot worse.  Kap never elaborated on why he thought things were better or what he saw to make him feel like things were improving.  I’m pretty sure that his need to be employed again had more to do with him changing his stance.

Question:  Would his sudden change of heart actually scare off more teams?  What kind of message does that send?  I’m sure Kap wants NFL teams to know that he will do whatever they ask him as long as he’s employed, even give up his moral stance on racial injustice.  But if I were an NFL GM, it would send a signal to me that he really is all about himself, not those around him.  At least when he was taking a stand he was showing that he supported things bigger than himself and the NFL.  His backtracking just shows it’s all about Kap and nothing more.

No Skills, No Chance

Players with talent get opportunities when they probably shouldn’t.  Let’s take a look at two very interesting examples: Ray Rice and Joe Mixon.  Both were caught on video landing haymakers to women in brutal fashion.  After a massive public outcry, Rice went from a two-game suspension to an indefinite one.  He hasn’t been back in the league since.  Mixon got the usual slap on the wrist and ended up being drafted in the second round by the Bengals.  He’ll be starting for them this season.  Why does one get a chance to play in the NFL and the other doesn’t when they did virtually the same thing?  Easy: Mixon is 20 years old and went on to have 2921 all-purpose yards and 26 TDs in two seasons at the University of Oklahoma before the public saw the video of him punching the female college student.  Ray Rice was 26 and coming off an abysmal 981 all-purpose yards/4 TD season with the Baltimore Ravens before his video surfaced.  Though Rice was available to sign to an NFL team after his suspension, no team wanted to take a chance on him.  Not so much for the video incident, that was part of it sure, but because he was a RB nearing 30 who showed major signs of decline prior to his suspension.  (30 years is often the age NFL running backs begin to lose steam.)

Think about this:  What if Kaepernick had the following stat line in 2016: 33 TDs, 9 INTs, 4,420 passing yards, a QBR of 87, and his team finishing at 12-4.  Do you think the Niners let him walk?  If so, do you think other teams would still blackball him?  If you think yes, you are incredibly oblivious as to how the world works.  Star players who perform well often get special breaks.  To quote a Disney film, it’s a tale as old as time.  Had Joe Mixon been a third string RB, do you think he would have remained on Oklahoma’s football team?  If Dez Bryant were a backup kick returner for the Dallas Cowboys instead of a Pro-Bowl receiver, do you think they would keep him on the team after he assaulted his own mother?

Kaepernick is not the worst QB out there.  In fact, I can think of several situations in which he would be an immediate upgrade (Jacksonville, Cleveland, Jets).  What he is not, however, is talented enough for a team to take him on along with whatever personal crusades he decides he wants to be a part of.

A Twisted Society in Which We Live

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If you read or listen to some of the comments from people on stories about athletes and domestic violence, you will often find people actually defending those that committed the crime.  “She shouldn’t have started it.” “What was he supposed to do?” “She attacked him first, why isn’t she in jail?”  Hell, even ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith thinks domestic violence can be avoided as long as the woman doesn’t provoke.  Yet, when Colin Kaepernick protests the flag, it’s seen as an affront to ALL Americans, men and women.  For some, it’s easier to find an excuse for domestic abuse but harder to find one for protesting the American flag.  It’s a sad but twisted truth about our society today.  If there’s one thing that unites Americans is the feeling that someone is against America. The average sports fan makes about $42,000 annually.  So to see a pro athlete, making $142 million, and raised in an affluent background, protest the American flag, it can feel like an attack on all the things great about America. NFL teams know this, and they know their fans.  They know how each game begins with a giant flag spanning the field, a salute to the troops and renditions of The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America.  If you’re an NFL QB who could potentially protest all of that, you’d better be coming off a 5,000 yard, 55 TD season.  Because winning is the only way to get a pass on that.  In our society, winning trumps morals.

Will Kaepernick Find Work?

Possibly.  But it won’t come until sometime around training camp when someone goes down with a serious injury.  In that situation, a team could use signing Kap as an emergency plan rather than be seen as a dedicated intention to make him a part of the team from the get go.  Keep an eye on Jacksonville.  A small-market team with a dwindling fan base in a city no one cares about.  That will probably be where he ends up.

 

What’s Next for Washington Sports?

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If you’re a fan of the professional sports teams in our nation’s capital, which of the following best describes your current state of mind?:

A.) “Wow!  All four of my teams are looking great!  Wizards and Caps in the second round of the playoffs, Nationals with one of the best lineups in baseball, and the Skins just landed the best defensive player in the draft!  I haven’t been this excited in a long time!”

B.) “It’s unlikely that the Wizards and Caps advance, but man they were exciting to watch.  Once the Nats get a closer healthy, they’re the team to beat.  It’s only a matter of time before Kirk Cousins is signed to a monster 15-year deal that will make him a Redskin for life.  We might not win anything this year, but next year LOTS of championship trophies!”

C.) “Until we’re in the championship game in any sport, it’s all just fluff to me.”

D.) “GODDAMN IT OVECHKIN!!! PASS THE PUCK!!!”

E.) “Go DC United!”

F.) “I like the Mystics’ chances this year.”

Indeed, it’s been a while since all four DC professional franchises have been this good all at once.  There’s been a lot of success lately, but nothing to show for it other than highlight reel plays, awkward contract negotiations with Dan Snyder, and far too many overtime games against an 8-seed.  That’s not to say a championship trophy for any of these teams is out of reach.  In fact, each team has decent odds for taking home a championship trophy fairly soon.  But each team also has decent odds for breaking it down and starting it all over again.  I wouldn’t say that all of them are in a “win now” mode (though one can make an argument that the Redskins are currently in that mindset as they enter the final years for both Gruden and Cousins), but they’re pretty close.  The pendulum can swing either way at this point.

Washington Capitals

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Year after year after year, the Capitals are the best team in hockey…during the regular season.  And year after year after year, they fall short and never make it past the second round.  Why?  No one can really seem to find an answer.  Some say it’s because they are weak in the center and allow themselves to get pinned into their own side of the ice. Some say that they’re not fast enough for bad match-ups in the playoffs. Some say that Ovechkin doesn’t know how to pass at the right times.  To be honest it’s all of that, and none of that.  Sometimes it’s simply bad luck.  Watching them in the playoffs, you can tell that there’s something not quite clicking like it had been during the regular season.  I think a lot of that is the giant playoff monkey named Sidney Crosby that has been dancing on their backs for several seasons.  An argument can be made that the new NHL playoff format (which is a total joke and slap in the face to all that is holy and good in the world) is the main reason.  How can you possibly pair the #1 vs. #2 seeds against each other in the second round?  If anything, it makes the regular season completely irrelevant.  Still, the Caps had the fortune to face the “Wild Card 2” (aka #8 seed) Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. It should have been a sweep, considering that the Caps finished with 55 wins and an 81 point goal differential compared to 40 wins and a goal differential of 9 for the Leafs.  The Caps won the series 4-2, but five of those six games went into overtime.  Not a good sign for the NHL’s best team who already had a knack for playoff failure.

What’s next?  It’s hard to say.  At the time of writing this, the Caps beat the Penguins to force a game 7, so I would say that the future is finally looking bright.  However, where the Caps go from here could easily hinge on this one game.  Win, and the Caps finally dump the Crosby kid off their backs.  Lose, and they face a long, uncertain future where fans and players alike begin to accept that nothing can ever be done to get to the Eastern Conference finals.  Not even the greatest coach in the world could convince the players otherwise.

Washington Nationals

Harper, Turner, Murphy, Weiters…this team can hit the paint off the ball.  Their rotation continues to be strong.  For the 2010s, the Nationals have been one of the top teams in baseball and continue to gain a stronger following.  This year, they have the third best record in baseball and already sport a six game lead over the second place, sex toy marketing, golf hangover laden New York Mets.  But that bullpen, oh my God that bullpen.  Here’s a live look as Blake Treinen takes the mound:

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What’s next?  The Nationals are still young enough and talented enough to make it to the World Series.  The bullpen will be fine once they all come back from the DL, which will allow Blake Treinen to enter some much needed therapy given how many horrible outings he’s produced.  Once the bullpen returns to health, this team could reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

However…

There is one big elephant in the room:  Bryce Harper’s contract.  He’s eligible for arbitration next year and can become a free agent in 2019.  Already there are people saying that he will be headed to the Yankees, and possibly so.  If the Nats lose the cornerstone of their franchise, it will be very difficult to compete in the coming years.  I won’t say the Nats are in “win now” mode, but with Harper’s contract it’s damn close.

Washington Wizards

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For the past few years, the Wizards have been good but not great.  It’s no secret that their two stars, Bradley Beal and John Wall, don’t exactly get chummy with one another on or off the court.  Wizards fans counted down the days until their hometown kid, Kevin Durant, became a free agent.  Unfortunately for Wizards fans, Durant didn’t even grant the team an interview.  While Durant began the season acclimating to life on the left coast and the high-flying Warriors, the Wizards began the season in disarray.  It looked early on like the season was lost, but suddenly Wall and Beal kicked it into a second gear and the team took off.  They surprised a lot of people when they pulled ahead of the Raptors and made a run to finish within striking distance of Boston and Cleveland for the top two seeds.  It took them six games to get past the scrappy Hawks in the first round, and now they’re in a literal boxing match with the #1 seed Boston Celtics.  The winner heads to the Eastern Conference Finals to face a well-rested Cleveland team who swept the Raptors with so much ease, that Lebron decided to shoot left handed to see what would happen.

What’s next?  If the Wizards can get past the Celtics, they are going to be worn down.  It would not be surprising if they get swept by the Cavs.  However, of all the DC professional teams the Wizards’ future looks the brightest when you look at it in the long-term.  Thanks to a new rule in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, teams can now spend more to keep their star players without it counting so much against the cap.  This will ensure that star players are able to stay with their teams for much longer.  Cleveland’s run will eventually run out and the Wizards have the talent and youth to stick around for a while.

Washington Redskins

I’ve spoken at length about the situation with the Redskins here.   The Redskins had one of the best drafts in recent memory this past month and landed some much needed defensive help.  Losing Garcon and DJax hurt, but not as much as people might think.  Pryor is more than capable of filling DJax’s shoes.  Garcon’s possession skills will be missed, but Cousins will find a way to get the ball around.  They won the division the season before last and nearly made the playoffs this past season.

What’s next?  Fear and uncertainty.  That’s what’s next.  This organization is run by the worst owner in sports.  Gruden is nearing the end of his contract and Cousins is on the franchise tag.  If there’s ever been a team to define the “win now” mentality, it’s the 2017 Washington Redskins.  Even if the Redskins somehow manage to re-sign Cousins to a long-term deal and extend Gruden to a few more years, there is going to be some steep competition in the division.  The Eagles had an amazing offseason, the Giants addressed some much needed depth, and the Cowboys are still locked and loaded with Dak and Zeke.

So Washington fans, here’s my advice.  Enjoy it while it lasts.  You may win some championships, and you may not, but for a city that hasn’t seen a major championship since my wife was in kindergarten, you have to strap in and hope for the best.

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My wife, Marissa (left) and her cousin Jason (right).  This photo was taken around the time Washington saw its last professional championship.